I am the fruit of a small South American tree, Bixia orellana. I reside in a seedpod with a prickly exterior for protection. A pulp that makes for a very popular food dye surrounds me. In the 16th Century, Spaniards were amazed to find I was used by Mexicans to redden their chocolate beverages. American Indians once used me to color their bodies orange red, but today I am used to color cheeses, butter, smoked fish and baked goods. Although I am primarily used for my color, I do provide a slight musky flavor. I am often crushed into a powder and used as a regular condiment in Latin America and India. I am often gently heated in oil or lard simply to provide color and then cooled and stored for later use. Available in a powder, paste or seed form I'm an essential ingredient in pibil, a Yucatan dish where I am used to marinate chicken parts providing a glowing color and a pungent flavor. In Southeast Asia, I am essential in the production of ukoy, a shrimp and potato cake. In some cultures I am used as a substitute for saffron. Saffron has much more flavor, but is significantly more expensive. I have no real vitamins or minerals of any value to speak of, but I am definitely a good source of color.
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